Design for Life: Linda Boronkay

Design for Life: Linda Boronkay

Design is a tool to create a special experience, says the founder of Linda Boronkay Design Studio founder and former Soho House design director

We catch Linda Boronkay in London, the city she calls home and from where she runs her eponymous design studio. But, there’s something impressively international about the former design director of Soho House. Born in Budapest, Linda studied design in London and has worked everywhere from Australia to the USA.

“I left Budapest when I was 17,” she says, sipping tea on the sofa of her elegant Belsize Park apartment. “Since then, I’ve never really had a proper home. I’ve always moved around. I lived in Paris, Milan, New York. I’ve lived in London since 2006, but I’ve moved from place to place. For me home is where my collection of objects are – those precious objects I’ve gathered over the years.”

If you’re familiar with Linda’s work (and if you’re a member of Soho House you almost certainly spend time in a club she designed), you’ll know that her interiors are richly textural, filled with dynamic curations of antiques, objets d’art and intricate soft furnishings. Many of the pieces that Linda sources are statements in their own right, but she has an eye for pairing expressive designs that work together in harmony.

Nowhere is this clearer than in her own apartment, where precious mid-century armchairs upholstered in vintage abstract fabrics complement a jade green velvet sofa, covered in quirky bouclé cushions and rugs. Antique cabinetry and artworks line the walls and statement planting anchors each room; adding still more texture to a home that feels ornate, yet harmonious.

“Objects aren’t just beautiful when they’re pleasing on the eye. They’re beautiful when they have a story”

Linda Boronkay

“Finding the right objects for a space is so important,” Linda continues. “At my studio, we like to find pieces for clients that have a story. When we’re working on a project I try to involve the client in sourcing – especially for vintage pieces. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process, travelling to antiques fairs, meeting vendors and bargaining for pieces, and then giving them new life. Objects aren’t just beautiful when they’re pleasing on the eye. They’re beautiful when they have a story.”

Linda is known for designing striking hospitality environments – both before, during and after her tenure at Soho House. She worked as the group’s design director for the UK, Europe and Asia for almost five years between 2016 and 2021, before taking the leap to establish her own studio. Prior to that, though, she worked at Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and Woods Bagot, the sixth largest architecture firm in the world.

“It was incredible,” she says of her time with Soho House. “It was work-hard, play-hard. We had quickly grown from a team of 15 to 100 and we travelled constantly. I was involved with projects in Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Mumbai and multiple projects in the UK. I was very lucky and I learned a lot.”

Linda credits her time at Brudnizki with igniting her passion for hospitality – as well the lesson that thinking ‘experientially’ is crucial in designing hospitality spaces. “I remember walking around Soho House sites at the first stage of every project,” she says. “We were always thinking about how people would feel when they interacted with the space. What should the ambiance be like? What is the atmosphere that you want to take away with you? The brief to us was always just to capture a feeling, and that’s what we had to translate to an interior.”

“Good design creates an experience that you yearn to return to over and over again”

Linda Boronkay

“When the music starts, when the barman starts to make the cocktails – that’s when a space comes alive”

Linda Boronkay

How, then, does Linda do this with her own design studio today? “Good design creates a positive emotional response,” she says, simply. “It creates an experience that you yearn to return to over and over again.” She cites the Boom Boom Room in New York as the perfect example. “It’s one of my favourite bars – it’s just an amazing set design, in a way. It’s also comfortable and functional, and when those two things meet you get great results.” Other spaces that inspire include Dia Beacon art museum in upstate New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in Hobart, Tasmania. “It was one of the craziest place I’ve ever been to, but very inspiring,” Linda adds, thoughtfully.

At the time of writing, her studio is working on design projects across four continents and seven countries. Among these is a new concept in Beirut that includes a restaurant, ceramic workshop and gallery, members’ club, cigar lounge and workspace across three separate buildings connected with a courtyard. “It’s in one of Beirut’s most lively neighbourhoods – the equivalent of the Meatpacking District in New York,” says Linda. “It’s a wonderful project because it’s grounded in beautiful old architecture and we can add new layers of meaning with the interior design.”

If storied objects and lively environments are important to her, so too is this concept of creating hospitality interiors with layers: “Really, we design almost like we’re creating our own homes,” she explains. “When you make a home, you go around the world picking up pieces that you gravitate to and they build up layers of meaning in your house. We try and do the same for all our clients.”

Even so, this is only two-thirds of Linda’s magic formula. The rest is down to the people, like you and us, who visit the spaces Linda Boronkay Design Studio have created to entertain. “Design, at the end of the day, is just pieces of furniture and lights. But when the music starts, when the barman starts to make the cocktails, when the guests start to arrive, when you smell the food and you hear the buzz – that’s when a space comes alive.”

How about another look?